When he worked at McDonald’s, he developed the Dollar Menu and McGriddles.
Then he launched his own chain, SmashBurger, in 2007. From the initial Denver store that June, the chain has grown to more than 40 in little more than two years’ time.
The 41st opens Friday at 11309 Bandera Road at Loop 1604 in the Bandera Pointe Shopping Center. It’s the third to open in San Antonio this year under the direction of franchisee SB Alamo, which has the rights to South Texas as well as all of New Mexico. A fourth will open in early 2010 at State Highway 151 and Potranco Road. (Another recent SmashBurger opening to make the news was at the DFW airport, where Mark Columbo of the Dallas Cowboys opened a franchise store.)
Though he worked under the golden arches and developed the stuffed-crust pizza at Pizza Hut, Ryan didn’t want to offer fast food at his chain. Nor did he want to create a sit-down environment like you find at Fuddrucker’s or Red Robin. His goal was somewhere in between, he said during a brief visit in San Antonio. So, Smashburger became what in the trade is known as a “fast-casual” restaurant where you order at the counter and have someone serve your food to your table.
That food could be a SmashBurger made with ground Angus chuck, a milk shake made with Häagen-Dazs ice cream, or a jumbo wedge salad topped with real blue cheese crumbles and bacon. It could also be crispy thin fries, which Ryan admitted were fried with a touch of beef tallow (a style that harkens back to the 1970s), and seasoned with a touch of rosemary. Veggie frites are flash-fried green beans, carrots and asparagus spears.
Customers are finding the sauces served at SmashBurger to be another draw, whether they want to dip their fries into the chipotle mayo or the zesty petal sauce. Mixing and matching ingredients is something customers enjoy doing, Ryan says. “I think customers like to own a part of what they’re eating,” he said. “Here, you don’t have to go out of your way to get it your way.”
Sounds like the slogan of another burger chain.
Ryan’s dreams for SmashBurger are anything but modest, yet he’s willing to do what it takes as he strives for his goal: “We want to become everybody’s favorite burger.”